QUITMAN –– The Brooks County Trojans could not stay in it for the duration of the game against the Clinch County Panthers on Friday.
The Trojans (1-1) were outscored 18-0 in the second half which led to them faltering 38-14.
Scoring began when the Panthers were given a jilt from an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Trojans, setting up quarterback Tyler Morehead to power through defenders for a touchdown.
Though the Trojans got their chance to get something going on their next drive, they failed to move the ball down the field and were forced to punt.
The Panthers drove the ball into the red zone, leading to a Michael Walker touchdown that was negated due to a holding penalty.
Clinch looked to create a favorable matchup with 6-foot-7 wide receiver Jeremiah Johnson being guarded by Brooks’ 5-foot-10 cornerback Tyreke Thomas.
Morehead lobbed two consecutive passes to Johnson, both falling incomplete before calling on Zack Robbins to kick a field goal to put them up 10-0.
Brooks’ quarterback, Ni’tavion Burrus then turned a broken play that initially seemed to only give the Trojans a first down.
Enter wide receiver Tramaine Demps.
Demps placed a block on Morehead near the Trojans' sideline that ended with Burrus high-stepping to the end zone with 35 seconds left in the first quarter to bring Brooks within three.
Unfortunately, on that play, Demps sustained a left leg injury and did not return to the game.
“It’s good to see a young person do something like that,” Trojans head coach Maurice Freeman said. “He’s not selfish and he’s going to be a pretty good one.”
Burrus found the end zone again when he connected with receiver Omari Arnold for a score to give the Trojans a 14-10 lead with 6 minutes left in the first half.
“When we got up, I think we felt good about it,” Freeman said. “Just some young mistakes that were made, but I’ll have to live with that. I think we’ll get better as time goes on.”
The Panthers got the ball and drove it down the field, allowing running back Demondre Edmonds to burst through a crowd of Trojans to reach pay dirt.
After Burrus threw an interception to Clinch defender D.J. Simon, the Panthers attempted to score again.
Moving the ball down to the goal line, a false start was called on the Clinch offensive line, causing time to run out before they could get attempt a field goal.
The third quarter was a stalemate, ending with no scores.
But Clinch began to show why it is the reigning GHSA A-Public school state champions in the final 12 minutes.
The Panthers transitioned from a lengthy drive in the third quarter, leading to Morehead’s quarterback keeper on the first play of the fourth quarter to put them up by 10.
Brooks attempted to counter, but was pinned deep in their own territory before Burrus was picked off by Clinch defensive tackle Craig Harris, who returned the ball down to the goal line.
On the ensuing possession, Morehead fell into the end zone to put the Panthers up 31-14.
The final score came when Morehead capped off his night with his fourth touchdown rush.
“Poor tackling and not converting on third downs hurt us,” said Freeman. “Turnovers in bad spots hurt us also.”
The Trojans' attention will now shift to the reigning Class 5A state champion Bainbridge Bearcats, a team Brooks upset 15-13 last season.
“We have to work and be prepared,” Freeman said. “We know it’s going to be a tough one. It’s no secret that they’re in a bad mood from losing to us from last year so we have to knuckle up and carry the bricks.”
Brooks County Trojans at Bainbridge High Bearcats on Sept. 13.
Clinch County Panthers at Dooly County Bobcats on Sept. 13.